John Carlton just tagged me – he wants my list of 25 random things.
The Facebook 25 Random Things has generated so much buzz, I’ve even fielded questions from news reporters about what it means about the Internet and social media and all that.
To which I replied, people used to do that via email, but email boxes are such high-intensity production zones that most people would be annoyed. 1999, sure I’ll take your quiz; 2009, sorry I’m too busy. Facebook has enough novelty that they like it OK there.
But the blogosphere is too. John Carlton tagged me to do this.
I’m adopting John’s rule: At the end of this blog I want to hear 2 things about YOU, via comments. I promise to read ’em all. Should be a riot. You gotta read mine first though. And then at the end I’m going to tag 5 more people.
1. When I was 11 or 12 I had these 18″ long PVC sticks from an old toy and used them as drumsticks, playing to the radio or turntable. One day I was playing “drums” on the floor and dad walked in on me. Was apparently watching for some time. When I turned around, he busted out laughing and promptly left. I felt ashamed, I think that was the last time I ever played “drums” for a long time. Then about 12 years ago Laura bought me a ticket to a Rush concert for Father’s day. Neil Peart awakened my inner drummer. I had never seen music played at that level. Still had baggage about that from dad and made a few more feeble attempts to assemble a drum set. Finally on my 35th birthday I said “screw it, I’m buying some drums.” Mapex set with Zildjian cymbals. Took lessons for a year. My friends would say I’m an adequate if not extraordinary player.
2. First serious tune I learned: An obscure Rush song from Test For Echo called Time and Motion. It’s not terribly difficult – it’s not like Natural Science or 2112 – but the odd time signature shifts back and forth from 2 to 3 to 5 to 6 beats per measure, with accents within measures shifting as well. Jagged elliptical feel with different beats on each hand and foot. I play it pretty well. I like odd times. There are a lot of cool songs written in 7/4, like “The Munificent Seven” by Sting or “All of the above” by Transatlantic or “When She’s Gone” by Spock’s beard. A very unusual specimen: “The Start of Something Beautiful” by Porcupine Tree. It’s written in 9/4. Cleverly phrased in five-four, played so seamlessly it’s danceable. Accents at 4, 7½ and 9. One of my favorite odd-time songs is “Thirteenth month” by Steve Smith and Vital Information which is in 13/8 time. (Phrased as four-four-five, that lilt at the end gives me goosebumps.)
3. From the story in item #1 you might think my dad was a bad guy. No siree Bob. When I was young he had this job as editor of a Christian youth magazine. It was very starchy, for example he wasn’t allowed to talk in much depth about issues like sex, and words like “masturbation” were prohibited. He chafed against that, because he was the guy who answered the mail and there was a lot of it. He hated to sweep important issues under the rug. He was a pen-pal counselor and he heard from hundreds, maybe thousands of teens about their garbage and wrote them back with wise words of advice. ‘Twas a great education for a dad to have. He picked his battles wisely, he was not a prude and he prepared me well.
4. My ring of closer friends, “Perry’s Breakfast Club”, tends to be left-handed misfits who see all things in the world as being connected. Kind of like me. We love those late-night, intense, far-ranging conversations. An eclectic bunch.
5. My first passion was speaker building. When I was 13 I desperately wanted a good stereo and being very cash-thin, DIY was the way to go. I got my hands on the McGee Radio 1982 catalog, ordered woofers and tweeters and crossover parts. Built cabinets out of particleboard, cut with a jigsaw. I was instantly hooked. During junior high and high school I built dozens of speakers. When I was a senior I got an agreement with a local dealer to sell them on their showroom floor. I know as much about speakers as I know about any topic. Then 3 years ago I designed my dream system and had the cabinets built. They’re described, tech details and all, here. Speaker design was a great preparation for all kinds of things that came later because every design choice involves a compromise.
6. Laura is the only person I ever seriously dated, she was my high school sweetheart. Our 20th anniversary is this summer. We got married when we were both juniors in college.
7. When we were both 19 we entered this crazy contest where you had to drive around in a big giant loop in a mall parking lot in Lincoln Nebraska, and this radio station KHAT was giving away money. They had 100 envelopes, 99 with $10.60 (106 FM) and one with ten grand. They would stop cars at random and the driver would draw an envelope. We pulled the $10,000 envelope out of the fishbowl. Observing that Laura and I never had a single fight or dark suspicion about how we were going to split, save or use the money, Laura’s dad decided we were probably pretty compatible.
8. When we had one kid and Laura was 3 months pregnant with #2, we took in a foster daughter. (Laura’s idea, not mine.) We had a 2 ½ month stint caring for an African American newborn baby named Drea. After that she was taken in by her paternal grandmother, who invited us to become her God Parents. Drea is 10 now and I take her to church every week. She’s a true blue inner city kid from the West Side of Chicago. And a very sweet girl.
9. The name I was born with is Perry Sink. Sink is a German name that is common in parts of North Carolina and nowhere else. (Generations ago, it was “Zink”). I absolutely HATED the name Sink. I chafed at it. Wondered what kind of sadist would pass that down. Dorky and downward-mobile. About 10 years ago I started using “Marshall” online (after my grandfather, Robert Burns Marshall), and 7 years ago legally changed it. I took the whole family to cook county court to do the name change. We all stand in front of this judge in a black robe and I give him our papers. He looks over his spectacles at me and says, “Mr. Sink, why do you want to change your name?” I say, “Your Honor, because it’s better to be a Sheriff than a kitchen appliance.” He raises his eyebrows and says, “I’m not going to touch that.” The new name was a major boost to my confidence.
10. I’ve visited 18 countries and 49 states. I have never been to Vermont.
11. My daughter’s name is Tannah. We made it up. To me the sound of her name imitates the sonic sheen of a drum stick tapping on a ride cymbal. A Pakistani friend told me that in Urdu, Tannah means “Tree trunk or strong supporting structure.”
12. When I was 17 my dad had terminal cancer. He’d never been to the west coast. 3 months before he died, unbeknownst to our family, the pastor of our church sent a letter to everyone, inviting people to quietly donate a few bucks so we could take a “last vacation” together. They gave $10,000 and someone loaned us a conversion van. We visited every state west of Nebraska including Alaska and Hawaii. Got to spend 5 weeks with dad on that trip, a bittersweet memory. Alaska is the biggest, most amazing place I’ve ever seen.
13. Straight out of college, I designed speakers for 2 ½ years at Jensen. Had a hand in the 1994 Ford Probe, the 95 Jeep Cherokee, the 95 Acura Vigor, and the 96 Honda Civic. The Civic had a hideously small budget so I proposed a 3-speaker system instead of the usual 4. Losing the one speaker saved a lot of money and allowed for much better components. Instead of four boring 16cm identical speakers this had one 6×9 dual channel subwoofer in the back (very good bass) and two 12cm speakers in the front (great midrange and treble). Considering the whole system only cost $15 it sounded awesome. It even sounded nice in the back seat. Honda rejected it though, the guy said having only three speakers would hurt marketing. He ignored my protests that they could now say it had a subwoofer. The speakers I was forced to design for $3.75 each were pitiful. Honda’s loss. Yours as well, if you drive a 1996-2000 Civic.
14. During my last year in college I sold vacuum cleaners in rural Nebraska.
15. In addition to selling vacuum cleaners that year, I was also a mentor for highly gifted students in the Lincoln Public Schools. I was so amazed at how fast a kid could learn with focused 1-on-1 attention, I was immediately convinced that home schooling was the way to go.
16. Most unusual job I ever had: Worked for a single mom. Picked up her 8 year old boy and two girls ages 6 and 12 from elementary school at 3pm every day, watched the kids and had dinner ready by 6pm when mom came home. Did that for a whole school year. Jason, Autumn and Amber are grown up now.
17. Every summer when I was a kid our family would drive 3 days from Nebraska to Virginia and North Carolina to see our grandparents. Fondest memory: Riding a bike up the road to Camp Powhatan in Hiwassee, Virginia, in the woods next to a raging stream called Max Creek. The road crosses the river about 20 times via old wooden bridges before you get to the camp, and it’s the best place in the world to get lost. The peaceful silence when winter snow falls in the Blue Ridge mountains is unforgettable.
18. My sister Robin Eschliman is a member of the City Council in Lincoln Nebraska, where she fights political battles on a daily basis. She’s very tight with money and she’s always in the newspaper because she’s just nailed some city department head for fiscal irresponsibility. When she tips at a restaurant, it’s 15% TO THE PENNY, using a calculator if necessary. Laura and I are way more generous and sloppy tippers than that; one time on a large expensive group dinner I accidentally tipped double because I didn’t notice the tip was already added to the bill. When the guy pointed it out, I let him keep the $100. Robin would be mortified. But I am quite happy that she is so miserly…because I for one do NOT want so-called “generous people” doling out taxpayer dollars. Generosity is defined by what you do with your money, not somebody else’s.
19. Conversing with my inner child: Most productive way I’ve found to do that is asking myself a question with my dominant hand (left hand for me) and writing the answer with the “wrong” hand. If you stream freely without editing or judging what comes out, this is how you get in touch with the weaker side of yourself. The effort of trying to write legibly occupies the rational side of your mind, freeing the other side to say what it’s been trying to tell you all along. It’s a great way to get to the bottom of compulsions, addictions and old emotional wounds. Abby Rohrer taught me this. Not only has my inner child told me a lot about myself, he’s also given me valuable insights on a number of other people. The little guy in there is very perceptive and always on the alert. I am now listening to him and giving him his due respect.
20. When I was in 6th grade I won a city-wide elementary school writing contest. Didn’t see that as having any particular significance for almost 20 years. Completely ignored writing as a valuable career skill until I discovered copy and direct marketing.
21. My favorite kind of restaurant is a Brazilian Churrascaria. Which is an exotic meat buffet – five different kinds of meat, each marinated, spiced and prepared five different ways (i.e. 25 total cuts), all you can eat. For anyone who’s not a strict vegetarian, it’s heaven on earth.
22. My childhood hero was Thomas Edison.
23. I’ve been fired from at least five jobs. Several more near-misses, one of which still gives me the shivers. A certain boss named Mike will remember that one. Sorry Mike, shouldn’t have been slammin’ you with the other sales guy on company time.
24. When I was 14 I volunteered to do my friend Andy’s paper route while he was on Christmas vacation. It was 20 degrees below zero the entire week and I got paid $30 for the whole thing. But I was still proud of it. Hard work is good sometimes.
25. My kids’ favorite game is 1-2-3 Smash. It’s played on the bed. Lasts until someone gets mortally wounded.
Can’t wait to hear your stories – and remember, I want to hear TWO from everybody…
Share This Post